A rrrriot is an oogly ting . . . und I think it's about time ve had vone!
-- Inspektor Kemp [Kenneth Mars], in Young Frankenstein
"Only in France," I said to myself with a smile and a chuckle, "could there possibly be such a thing as dissident wine producers." But seriously, isn't this situation getting out of hand? The Independent [April 21] reports:
The grapes of wrath fermenting in the French wine industry boiled over into a mini-riot on the streets of Narbonne yesterday.
A group of 50 young wine producers hurled molotov cocktails, cobble stones, bottles and flares at riot police at the end of a turbulent but mostly peaceful demonstration by 10,000 growers from the French deep south.
Joined by a sprinkling of local anarchists, the young wine-growers taunted and confronted the CRS riot police for nearly two hours across two bridges over a canal in the heart of the town.
At one point a launch crewed by Dutch tourists found itself trapped between the two bridges, on which wheely bins had been set aflame.
The CRS bombarded the rioters with tear gas. The Dutch tourists turned their launch and escaped. Finally, the rain came down and both sides dispersed.
The riot was always more theatrical than violent but demonstrates the growing anger of French wine-growers, especially in the south.
The problem: while southern French grape growers have been pulling up vines to reduce the risk of oversupply, their Bordelais brethren have been planting just as many vines of their own.
This year, the unsold stocks in France are largely 'appellation controlee' (i.e., supposedly medium quality) wines from the Bordeaux region something unprecedented in the history of French wine.
Jean Roger, 58, president of the wine growers of the Pyrénées Orientales département himself convicted recently of hijacking a lorry-load of wine said: 'While we were suffering and destroying our vines and reducing production and improving quality, the Bordeaux growers were planting new vines, thousands of hectares of new vines.'
'Now they have run into trouble and they are bleating but it is we, the Roussillon and Languedoc growers, who are suffering most. Just when we should be reaping the benefits of the sacrifices we have made, our prices have collapsed.'
I can understand the French growers' anxiety, but I can't help but perceive a splendid opportunity for wine consumers. In a spirit of international amity, here is my suggestion:
Some aspiring French entrepreneur1 needs to emulate California's Fred Franzia2 and his Charles Shaw brand, better known as "Two Buck Chuck." Buy up all that excess supply, especially that "supposedly medium quality" Bordeaux. Bottle it. Sell it at an absurdly low price to thirsty French and Americans. Give the product a sunny Gallic3 brand name such as "Bon Francois," then -- and this is the critical bit -- let it become known by the perfect snappy nickname, one that harks back to those halcyon, romantic days before the adoption of the Euro. I refer, of course, to . . . "Deux Franc Frank!"
1 An ambitious, creative business person; what is called in English an "entrepreneur."
2 Despite his potentially confusing surname, Fred Franzia is not French.
3 "Gallic" does not mean "of or relating to the Gallo family," although it should be noted that the Gallos are already operating in Languedoc.